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Local Business Marketing - How to Measure the Success

In the old days of marketing, the craft of reaching out to customers was largely intuitive. Marketers and salespeople had to design the best creative campaigns that they could, and then just see how well they worked. From there, you have the drama of AMC’s hit classic TV show “Mad Men” and everything else that goes along with this kind of blind marketing.

It's a lot different today -- with so many new technologies and digital advances, marketers now have the ability to work from known metrics and outcomes, to design more effective marketing campaigns and sales funnels. Digital marketing performance is accurately measurable and that makes it even more exciting.

Many of these performance metrics are called Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. How do local businesses use these to achieve success in their communities?

Business leaders will look at things like sales and direct revenues, but they’ll also get a glance at specific types of lead generation, and find out more about how web campaigns work, using specific bits of data gleaned through digital systems.

For example, a company can use a web form to get submission details from a prospective customer. That allows them to see more about that customer, before a deal is ever made. It enhances the sales funnel, and makes the salesforce more informed and gives them a better edge toward conversion.

Looking At Online Engagement and Participation

The engagement side has a lot to do with what companies offer online. Marketers can log in and assess metrics like the click through rate (CTR), which is how many people clicked into the site, and the bounce rate, which represents how many people quickly dropped out of the site, instead of doing deeper reading.

These items are important for Google rankings, but they're also valuable business intelligence -- without them, how do you know if people are really interested in what's on your website?

Even e-mail marketing has its own metrics. Using things like phase marketing and A/B testing, e-mail campaign managers can see how these messages are reaching customers. They can tweak things like the rate of message delivery, time of day, and even the phrasing or structure of e-mails to make them more effective.

Platforms like Google Analytics can be effective here. Google Analytics can help to provide detail on practical metrics including page views and session lengths for users. By digging into this data, companies can get a much better idea of how well they're reaching their audiences.

Technical Marketing: A Life-Saver in the Digital Age

Too many companies don't invest in these types of “scientific” marketing, but in the end, they need to do so to grow their customer base and better understand their current customers. They may have a website, but no clear call to action, so that people just read, and can never take any kind of step forward. They might have valuable industry information and great landing pages online, but no lead generation forms, so that they never collect the business information about the site visitors that they can use to follow through.

When you pay attention to such KPIs and add these things to a website, you get exponentially marketing improvements -- without a whole lot of cost. WebSubstance can help companies to take their online game up a few notches, by engaging in precise, metrics-based marketing, instead of just trusting in the power of creativity. Talk to us about how to add both science and art to a web footprint, to get the best of both worlds, and really drive customer interest.

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Digital Marketing for Local Biz | What Works?

Local small businesses can really profit from good digital marketing. E-commerce may have started with large shopping portals and mega chains, but it's making its way to Main Street. Nowadays, so much of what people buy gets bought over the web that small businesses almost have to invest in good digital marketing to survive. Customers might be right down the street, but they're still on their smartphones.

Here are some foundational pillars of digital marketing that work for small local businesses.

Content Building

In general, businesses that want visibility on the Internet need quality content -- but specifically, local businesses benefit from locally directed content. Unfortunately, the vast majority of businesses have not understood this principle, and they still have SEO people writing bland, generic content that could be posted anywhere in the country. Instead, if you focus on local issues, and hire local people to craft stories about what's happening in the local area, you're going to get great ranking, a vibrant sets of page views and good click-through rates.

Engage the Community

Another way to really boost visibility for small local businesses is to get out and talk to the neighbors. You can go and ask for feedback on your business, and even give out free samples to try to get people to stop by and chat. You can build public events that get people participating in the conversation. All of this is extremely important in word-of-mouth marketing and building brand visibility over time.

Giving Back

Small, local businesses are also embracing the concept of charity, a concept that's often present in board rooms and practiced by big corporations. The idea is that you set aside some of your profit and give it back to the community. It's often done in public ways, so that it will capture some marketing value. For example, different types of public charity in the local community can generate high-quality referral links, which are excellent for SEO, apart from the fact that it elevates your company’s image in the local community.

Paid Media and Paid Search

In addition to natural, organic web content, companies are also investing in marketing tactics like PPC advertising. Paid search can be an excellent way to supplement all the other kinds of digital marketing that you do, in concrete ways that involve transactional results. You pay a certain amount of money for paid search or other paid promotions on social media platforms, and you get a certain amount of traffic in return. Usually traffic from the paid search is highly qualified. It's a good idea to try to estimate your return on investment (ROI), to make sure you're getting your money’s worth -- just like you would in print marketing. Google very recently introduced many new features like Expanded Text Ads (ETA) that can boost up a local business’s sales or lead generation. And by the way, adding a little print marketing still works, too. Some of the experts talk about multichannel marketing, where you're doing SEO, PPC, and print, all together and investing a certain amount of money in each.

WebSubstance can help your local business set up a quality website and market your products or services through multichannel marketing tactics and help you participate in your community. Let us engineer the structural design of your site and help you build out the results to get more market share in your local market.

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PPC for Local Business – Why Is It So Effective?

While many businesses take advantage of a diverse online marketing approach, some of them ignore some of the biggest opportunities for multi-channel web marketing.

One of the most basic examples is relying heavily on SEO and organic search marketing without including pay per click marketing or PPC. PPC can really augment the results that you get with search engine optimization, especially in today's new world where the results of keyword-based SEO are so limited.

So why do businesses benefit from PPC? One of the most basic ideas is that PPC can help when a business isn't able to get itself on page 1, or even page 2, of a Google SERP result. When that business doesn't have a presence at the top of Google results, PPC can get that business on the front page in another way.

Resulting from recent changes to Google algorithms, there are now 11 PPC slots available on a Google page. Getting some of the best positions can really increase visibility and add to a more vibrant readership. Yes, it's paid search, but it can work hand-in-hand with SEO to get more people visiting your site.

Another great benefit that companies can get relates to new Google tools and opportunities for specialized marketing. For example, you may not have heard about something called a “callout extension” – but this short-form type of PPC shows up in Google results below the URL. Savvy marketers can craft it to include any kind of message that’s meant to jump out to a given sets of users.

Using callout extensions, rich media and more can really help companies to broaden their market visibility online. One prominent example is in local markets. Experts recommend getting zip codes into callout extensions, and using these and other tools to remind shoppers that a small business is actually in a given community, not ‘out there somewhere on the web.’ The idea is that through combining SEO and PPC, the businesses is doing more of that key “shouting out” to web users about its best features and what it has to offer.

WebSubstance takes an integrated approach in search engine marketing (SEM) solution for a local business. We can help companies to build great SEO programs and ROI driven pay per click campaigns. We know how to work with existing Google standards and algorithms to accommodate more visibility, and to improve a company’s standing on the web. Ask us about how to craft a comprehensive SEM approach that includes Web marketing through SEO and PPC, as well as innovative visuals and design for a great website or landing pages that will actually keep people attracted to your business when they get there. We help to create and maintain great online footprints from top to bottom, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

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Well, what do you know? Google went and changed things up once again.

There's a big change coming to Google SERP results. Along with the messing around with its ranking algorithms, the search engine giant is now changing the ways that ads will show up on Google results pages. So what does this mean for a business online ad campaign? Here are some of the ways that the sudden change is likely to affect company efforts.

The Change-up

Instead of running text ads on the right, Google will put more text ads above the organic listings area, and three more text ads at the bottom of the SERP page. That means a maximum of seven ads. The right rail area will be filled with product listing ad blocks and knowledge panels.

Here’s part of what’s likely to be in store for marketers.

Higher Click Through Rates for Some Ads

One of the likely outcomes is that ads will enjoy a lot more attention than they would have had on the right hand side of the site. Analysts have seen the click through rate for ads on top exceeds right rail ads by about 1400%. The fact that there won't be as many ads can also improve the average position of ads – because, as some put it, although there are “more ads on top” there are overall fewer ads on the page.

Interest in PPC Auctions

Now that there will be fewer ads on a page, there's likely to be more bidding for PPC, because brands have to share the same positions. By shrinking the footprint of the page, Google is putting pressure on some types of pay per click campaigns and that will be one change we’ll see coming out of this new strategy.

Stress on SEO

Experts also point out that the new change can be devastating to organic search.

That means the “simple SEO” is going to come under more pressure, and be augmented with things like image and video formats, knowledge graphs, rich media and other implementations that will get brands and pages more prominence.

Big Attention for High-Position Ads

Ads in some of the top positions will get a bigger share of the attention. For example, experts showed how positions 3 and 4 on the SERP page will see big click through rates and lots of value in the new Google environment.

These are some of the ways that Google's changes are going to craft a marketing atmosphere around best practices for SEO, PPC and other kinds of search engine marketing.

Reacting to these kinds of changes requires a sophisticated and subtle approach., companies have to know how to “roll with the punches” and change their advertisements and web pages in ways that work to their advantage.

At WebSubstance, we’re familiar with how to work with changing Google practices. We will help your site stay optimized in a world where optimization is changing. Ask WebSubstance for professional development advice and consulting to keep your web properties and your brands competitive in a dynamic online business world.

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Content Marketing: Time to Go Beyond Blog

Quite a few companies in many industries are realizing that a blog does a lot for a business. It's a kind of steady marketing addition that provides a stream of page views from interested users, whether they're on laptop or desktop computers or mobile phones. Blogs are a way of creating a great conversation with potential customers. But these days, with so many companies having implemented blogs already, some of the smartest and most forward-thinking firms are looking beyond this medium for new opportunities to interact with an audience online.

Go In-Depth with Long-Form Content

Some companies are moving toward a strategy that includes creating more technical content -- writing white papers, or e-books, or other in-depth materials that people want to scroll through, or even print out. A “white paper” is something that sounds authoritative and can provide inside wisdom on a particular industry or process. Likewise, an e-book promises to be more than just a passing message.

Some of the value propositions here are around thought leadership and the ability to generate detailed information about an industry. Companies even hire journalists or others to go in and do specific long-form pieces that give the company an authoritative voice on their field or industry.

Infographics and Slideshows: Visual Appeal

Companies also like to gravitate towards visual resources such as slideshows and infographics. In particular, infographics are very popular right now because of the way they blend traditional text reading and visual appeal. You see a mix of short text blurbs and clever, attractive and compelling images. You get facts extremely quickly, and internalize messages without having to read through full documents.

In addition, companies are looking to reinvent their old material by, for instance, repurposing blog posts into infographics and other more visual pages.

Do I Want Video?

Video is a tough one. Some companies will stay away, because of the issue of whether low-bandwidth users and those on aging machines will want to click in and access these data-rich media pieces. However, video can be extremely effective for “show and tell” – where a business doesn’t want to restrict outreach to crabbed rows of letters on a page. One solution is to embed youtube videos into a page, so that users can always access the streaming video right through the aggregate site.

Rich Media for a Local Business

These types of marketing materials can be a great way to put companies in touch with a local audience or customer base in a community. For instance, a well-placed infographic can give readers a choice -- whether they want to put on their reading glasses and go through a detailed blog post, or just look at a series of fast facts and consider what a given company has to offer.

At WebSubstance, we excel at helping companies to find the right online footprint. We know how to integrate rich media results into websites -- to add things like infographics, slideshows and long-form content to what used to be a generic corporate site. Ask us about how to improve your web presence today.

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Why Local Businesses Can No More Ignore Mobile-Friendly Sites

The news is in from business publications, studies and marketing departments around the world. Mobile has taken over.

For a growing number of businesses, it's not whether to initiate vibrant mobile-friendly campaigns. It's when, and how. Companies are jumping on the bandwagon, not just because it's an attractive trend, but because more and more of their customer base is doing business predominantly over mobile platforms. That means if a business doesn't have a mobile-friendly component, it really loses out.

But mobile strategy is more than just building a responsive website. It's more than just making sure that when people look up a business on their smart phone, they get a screen they can read. Mobile-friendly marketing means tailoring what the business does to the mobile interface. Here are some mobile strategies that pay off big in today's smartphone-centric world.

Blogging About Objectives

One way to engage over mobile is to create a blog that's constantly updated, that underscores the company’s goals and objectives, as well as its history, its corporate culture and the biggest things that it has to offer customers. The blog serves a few purposes – it drives reader engagement, and also helps to define the company in a mobile context.

Of course, this blog has to be mobile-friendly. It needs to be designed so that titles and text are easily viewed, and read on the spot. It has to be made so that the smartphone user can click into the landing site, and then into the blog, without scrolling around looking for buttons or menus.

Address Particular Mobile Environments

Businesses have to decide whether they will run their mobile content through the Internet or through a particularly designed mobile app. There are pluses and minuses both ways -- for instance, fewer users may be inclined to put a mobile app on the phone, while anyone can look up a mobile site over their smartphone browser. On the other hand, mobile apps can be more personal and create a ‘walled garden’ for customers. Some experts recommend using both to augment an existing mobile-friendly design.

Leverage Social Media

Of course, a big part of the business mandate for mobile engagement involves social media, but there are particular strategies that are critically important, especially for local businesses.

One excellent example is creating Facebook events. With so many people planning their schedules around their Facebook events, a local business can drive excellent word of mouth and get people in the door, just by creating sequences of well-designed Facebook events that reach out to the community particular ways. This is especially true for food service businesses or other businesses that are public spaces -- where businesses want to drive the physical meet-ups and get people to physically walk into a store or business location.


Another way to drive engagement is through a system of smartphone alerts. These alerts can go to an e-mail inbox or, again, through an app. Alerts are often used by local government offices, schools, etc. But they work for businesses, too. When smartphone users sign up, they're creating long-term engagement that's worth it's weight in gold.

All of these and other mobile-friendly strategies help the business to make sure it's not getting left behind in an age where catering to the smartphone user is so important. WebSubstance can help a company to develop a full-spectrum strategy for the web and mobile. We have an excellent track record of supporting companies in their efforts to upgrade their marketing to reach the new digital consumer, and to really compete in tough and competitive markets.

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2016 Trends in Local SEO

These days, quite a number of companies are getting serious about developing a local web footprint.

The idea is that businesses exist in communities, and that they should market directly to their communities, online as well as in a bricks and mortar space. Here are some of the trends we've seen in 2015, and more that we can expect to continue with local SEO in 2016 and beyond.

Using Local Identifiers: Putting Yourself on the Map

One of the major trends in local SEO and web design is the addition of local branding and contact information to not just the contact page, but to as many pages as possible. To understand how this works, think about a big corporate website where you can't find any local phone numbers, addresses or leadership names. You may have just a simple contact form, or a global phone number located in some other country. It makes you feel like no one can reach the company, that it only exists in a vague Internet nether-world.

Local identifying is the opposite of that. Companies work hard to get a local phone number and address on every single page, or on the majority of pages, with specialized object designs. They try to promote visibility of local information across the web site, so that whether people are at the desktop or on a smartphone, they can figure out exactly where the business is and how to reach it.

Local Tagging and SEO Factors

Businesses are also putting much more geo-specific information into titles, headers, URLs, and content. A lot of times, this will consist of a city or region descriptor, but it can also include other labels for nearby towns or parts of a metro area.

In some ways, geo-specific tagging has taken the place of dubious methods like keyword stuffing, where marketers really tried to get a barrage of random keywords into pages based on what they got from Google analytics or some other source. Local SEO factoring is keyword-intensive and labor-intensive, but it's not unethical or intrusive, unless it affects the quality of the content on the page, or it's done excessively throughout the site.

Local Partnering

Companies are also taking a local approach to link building. They're allowing local people to guest post or co-author a post. They're citing local businesses when they include hyperlinks in a page.

All of this takes the local business principle further. In a way, by constructing these tighter relationships, companies are reinventing the age-old “Main Street” business idea in a digital space. In the old days, you had physical stores next to each other in a commercial district, and customers accessed them collectively (they walked from one to another). In a new local SEO environment, you have businesses that are, again, tied to one another directly, and more accessible in those specific ways.

All of these trends are likely for local SEO in 2016. Companies want to build from where they are in the community, and take the local approach first.

At WebSubstance, we've developed a strong reputation as a firm that helps client companies to do local SEO and apply these principles to their sites. Throughout the Northern Virginia community, we've helped to create that Main Street environment with targeted localized SEO programs, content marketing, and ongoing maintenance that, all together, makes a corporate web site shine, and ties it into the communities that it serves.

Here is a fun Local Search Expert Quiz: How Much Do You Know about Local SEO?

View Survey

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Jenny Le - President